In John Drabinski’s article, “The Everyday Miracle of the Occasional Community,” he writes about the magic that was the Grateful Dead parking lot. It was a freewheeling marketplace which pulled one out of the Marcusean one-dimensionality of our soul-deadening modernity. Compared to his one hour commute where he silently bumps into the same people every day without recognition, the random Deadheads he meets in show lots ooze community, togetherness and an organic complexity not found in the “everyday.” When Phish played Randall’s Island on the weekend preceding Bastille Day, recently, Drabinski’s experiential truth was in force on many levels.
My sister, years ago, often described the weeks after Dead tour as “reentry.” Those weeks could be bumpy, to say the least. One of the nicer aspects of Phish 3.0, however, the post-breakup version, is that these transitions never seem quite as extreme as they once did. The shift into and out of the scene, for me, can be fairly seamless. For starters, I had been visiting with family in Brooklyn for the week preceding Randall’s, and the city was beginning to feel like home, again. Coney Island, parks along the East River, Governor’s Island; these day trips with my niece and nephew reinvigorated my long standing love for all things Big Apple.
By the time my partner, her sister and brother-in-law, Matt, showed up to the city on Friday, it was Phish time, and I was in the NYC “zone.” I was mastering the art of ignoring people in public spaces and in public transportation (not the norm in rural Maine). I could zip from one transportation line to another without becoming irritated by waiting. And I had accrued a wide array of blisters on my feet after scores of miles pounding the pavement. In that state of mind, Matt and I grabbed a cab across town to East 102nd St.
Once we began to climb the 103rd St. bridge ramp, it was clear that we were entering the Phish zone. However, along the way, New York families and other picnickers lounged on Randall’s Island’s green spaces as if in some updated Seurat painting. Ferries full of heads steamed upriver toward the concert venue, and small clusters of phans waved from shore to boat and back again. We had no idea what sort of venue was in store, but already the city was being transformed. We, too, were headed to a picnic at “La Grande Jatte,” yet judging by the smiles and knowing glances of the phans around us, it was to be no ordinary fête.
After passing the spooky Manhattan Psychiatric Center (sorry, poisoned by Adrian Lynde’s 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder) and crossing the little Hell’s Gate Bridge, we found ourselves in a tiny parking lot that was trying its darnedest to be Shakedown St. That, however, did not stop us from running into familiar faces (who shall not be named), old phriends who turn up at the most venerated of gatherings. The occasional community transition had begun walking upriver, and the crummy lot completed the circuit. It was not long before high fives, hugs and conversations morphed into us checking the hour. Show time.